Week 4: Education and the Control of Knowledge

This week in our Open Source course, we are focusing on education and the control of knowledge. A leader in the education sector for open source is Open Up Resources. Open Up is an openly licensed, nonprofit collaborative that was formed in an effort to develop comprehensive and high quality standards-aligned core programs to K-12 schools. (Open Up) School districts spend more than $8 billion on textbooks and other instruction materials annually, however, there are huge gaps between district needs and publisher offerings for these materials. In a study done by EdReports, they reviewed 16 middle school math programs and found that only one was deemed standards-aligned across every middle school grade. (EdReports) Open Up’s goal is to deliver consistent educational materials to the changing K-12 student’s needs. Before releasing their open source curriculums, Open Up beta tests them with hundreds of students in multiple districts in order to strengthen the curriculum through feedback. Open Up also provides curriculum support for students with disabilities. They cover the entire educational spectrum for grades K-12. Through open source publications of their curriculum, Open Up provides incredible savings to districts. This also reduces the royalty payments made to the instructional material publishers and authors providing a further decrease in costs to schools. Open Up is proving to be an extremely beneficial tool in changing our education system through the use of open source.edu_open20up

Not only have there been drastic changes in the Open Source education sector, but IP in education, and specifically college research, has seen policy change as well. Penn State announced that the University no longer owns intellectual property from research done with or by the college. It was quoted that Penn State aims to “spur growth with more flexible IP policies, manage master agreements by building end-to-end partnerships, create a culture of entrepreneurship, and raise revenue by aggressively marketing existing Penn State IP.” (IP Policies) This policy change exemplifies an incredible step towards open source innovation through education. Though certain researchers may obtain patents on their products or discoveries, the fact that the University as a whole will no longer seek to obtain ownership rights to over the inventions is incredible for open source. Penn State could lay the groundwork for much more inclusive University-sponsored research between colleges and other research-based firms.

There has been other concern as to the increase in the number patents by Universities across the US. It is believed that such a drastic increase, as a result of the technological boom, may lead to less innovation. “The increased focus on patenting academic inventions has raised a number of concerns. These concerns range from the effect on the direction of research, on the actual costs and benefits of patenting and licensing, to the effects on the diffusion of and access to publicly funded research results.” (Academic Patenting) Open source has quickly become a popular solution to innovation. Companies such as Tesla, who are now releasing their tools and data to the public, have given much attention to the Open source community. Although there are many benefits of patents, the general trend to secure data and research among educational institutions should


Week 3: Energy

This week in our Open Source for the Common Good course, we are focusing on the development of OSD for wind energy, most specifically for Danish turbines. In the 1973 Oil Crisis, the Danish government was forced to invest in either nuclear or renewable energy in order to counteract the oil shortage. Collaboration from college students, activists, and professors prompted the quick development of wind energy as a substitute for potentially harmful nuclear energy. A plausible solution seemed to point towards wind turbines. Over time, and through open source communication, wind turbines evolved from one to two to three blades. Research suggested that the third blade could significantly increase efficiency and that the wind turbines now only needed 12 m/s of wind to generate a substantial amount of sustainable energy. Today, through collaborative study, wind turbines now only need 4 m/s of wind to operate as a result of increasing the size of each blade to 80 meters in diameter. The new triple bladed wind turbine has been named the Danish Concept. As a result of OSD, renewable wind energy has become a viable replacement to other carbon emitting methods for obtaining energy.


OSD provides an incredible solution for developing sustainable energy, however, there have been instances of IP within the energy sector that have prevented such rapid invention and production as seen above. Jesús Alonso, the R&D Director at Isofoton, has acquired many IP rights in an effort to remain on top of the solar energy industry. Isofoton is a world leader in photovoltaic and thermal solar energy technologies and they have commercial business in over 60 countries. Alonso and Isofoton aim to own and create only IP in an effort to retain their leading status in the market of solar energy. “For Isofoton, the basic goal is that the company should as far as possible generate and own all IP as a result of its internal research and development activities, so as to be independent from the competition in generating new technology and ahead of competition in the applications market.” (WIPO) Although this goal for Isofoton might prove beneficial for its investors and clients since they would essentially rule the market for renewable solar energy, it is extremely detrimental for the rest of the world. Due to their significant resource and research capabilities, they have an incredible upper hand in development and production. However, if they were to instead incorporate open source into their strategy, the development of new and more efficient renewable solar energy technologies could occur at a much faster rate.

The Earth’s climate is being destroyed by the release of 30 billion tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere annually. A possible solution to such a huge problem is a shift to renewable solar and wind energy since the harnessing of both types of energy emits 0 carbon. Humans must work together to develop renewable technologies on a worldwide scale as quickly as possible in an effort to counteract our carbon release. In order to do so, companies like Isofoton must put an end to their commercial greed and sacrifice potential profit to help counteract global warming and the destruction of our planet.



Week 2: The Inequality Crises

This week in our Open Source for the Common Good course, we are focusing on the inequality crises, most specifically in the US. The use of intellectual property patents has skyrocketed since the beginning of the technological boom. In 1980, 112,000 intellectual property patent applications were filed and 62,000 were approved. In 2015, 630,000 applications were filed and 298,000 were approved. (USPTO) With such vast access to knowledge via the Internet and other forms of modern communication, the drive to beat the competition has drastically increased our belief in the need for patents and has consumed our economic and political spheres. For example, in the case Association for Molecular Pathology vs. Myriad Genetics, Myriad Genetics had claimed that they had a patent on two human genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2, mutations that predispose women to breast cancer. Until the court ruled in favor of the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), Myriad Genetics had charged $4000 for comprehensive testing on the two genes. However, gene tests can be administered for $1,000 and can sequence all 20,000 of a human’s genes as stated by the AMP. (NYTimes) Myriad Genetics, upon losing the case, claimed that they needed to maintain a high price level in order to continue to fund research. The use of intellectual property, and most specifically in this case, has led to extreme commercial greed. IP has generated a lack of desire for knowledge and has led to commercial schemes designed for the creation of wealth.

Another company that has reaped the lower class of wealth at the hands of IP is Monsanto. Monsanto created patents for their genetically modified seeds that they hoped would protect them from competitors who were trying to enter the market for GMO’s. However, Monsanto took this patent even further. Due to the effects of cross-pollination, the genetically modified seeds traveled to other farms, leading Monsanto to claim that the farmers must pay them or face the possibility of a lawsuit. Monsanto has filed 145 lawsuits against farmers who have “improperly reused their patented seeds” and they have yet to lose a case. (Monsanto Lawsuits) Monsanto is just another example of commercial greed that comes at the hands of the lower class.


The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, was a government sponsored, international research project with the goal of mapping all of the genes in the human genome. It was a 13 year project that represented OSD at its finest. Through public effort, the project was completed light-years before any private institution would have been able to. Not only was this project groundbreaking in the world of genetics, but it paved the way for exponential growth in the health industry. Discoveries of vaccines and mutations quickly became much more plausible (and eventually even created in some cases). All knowledge is based on prior knowledge and the Human Genome Project created an incredible database that has led to life-saving discoveries. If we removed commercial greed in our society and became more focused on knowledge and discovery, we could see incredible progression in multiple fields.